Larry Kramer's Case Against "Queer"

Longtime activist and writer Larry Kramer schools the crowd as he accepted an award from Yale's Gay and Lesbian Association.

BY Charles Kaiser

April 29 2009 12:00 AM ET

BAYARD RUSTIN X390 (WARREN K. LEFFLER WIKI) | ADVOCATE.COM

Kramer is particularly
unhappy that the strong evidence of Lincoln's bisexuality in
C.A. Tripp's groundbreaking work,
The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln,

continues to be ignored by most straight historians -- and many
gay ones.

Kramer points to
Tripp's account of Lincoln's breakdown after separating
from Joshua Speed as particularly indicative of the
president's real feelings: "Just look at a calendar
and see when he has the breakdown -- and don't give me all
this other shit about 'Mary's out shopping for too much
money' or whatever. They [Lincoln and Speed] had a parting
and [their letters prove] it was very painful for both of them.
And it isn't even taught as a possibility anywhere.
That's what pisses me off about Yale."

Kramer cites Gore
Vidal's novel
Burr

(which features a gay whorehouse in colonial New York) as one
reason for his belief that both George Washington and Alexander
Hamilton were also gay. (One of Kramer's assertions appears
to have no historical basis whatsoever: He said that Martin
Luther King's senior aide Bayard Rustin "was
homosexual and was assassinated because of it." Rustin was
indeed gay, but he actually died of natural causes in
a New York hospital after a botched operation.)

As for the rest of his
evidence, Kramer said, "I don't want to give away too
much, but these men are so obviously so self-centered in male
friendships -- that by me is gay enough." He said the rest
of what he's learned will be revealed in his massive historical
work,
The American People,

a combination of fiction and nonfiction, which he has been
working on for 20 years and is now 4,000 pages long. Kramer
guesses it's still five years away from publication.

As for gay people
calling themselves "queer," I asked Kramer if he
thought it's just like African-Americans who refer to each
other as "ni*****."

"Exactly,"
Kramer said. "And it certainly is not going to endear us
to the straight world, even though it's intended to be a kind
of in-your-face kind of opposition for political reasons. Which
is just such ass-back reasoning."

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